Entries tagged with “USA”.

Trees in little Cranberry Lake, Fidalgo Island, WA

It’s been awhile since I’ve uploaded any of my “Abstract Reality” photographs, but they still make up a large part of my picture taking. There are certain things I look for in these pictures and in a way I found that it was becoming a bit too easy to do. So I’ve been trying to be a lot more selective in the ones that I make public.

Section of some washed out chalk drawings, in Anacortes WA

So I’ve recently uploaded a selection from pictures I have taken over the entire summer. Most of them are of chalk drawings in a park in Anacortes WA, trees and water at Little Cranberry Lake on Fidalgo Island,  a sculpture along the Lochside Trail near Victoria, BC, and then a scattering from Vancouver and Seattle.

Lake Surface.

I should again restart that these are things that attract my eye, I make no claims on them being art or anything.  I don’t devote the time or have the level of dedication to photography that the real artists have. In a way I just present these as an insight into what I like. Additionally there are those that seem to like similar things that I do.

Sculpture (detail) on Vancouver Island

I am a bit curious if there are other people that find the same things interesting as I do, in a way some of the things that attract my eye seem to be a result of how our vision system works.  I did at one point jot down all the things I look for when I take these pictures, I’ll have to post that one day.

Windows in Vancouver.

As always click on the photos to be take to a flickr page where you can select different sizes. To see all of the pictures in this batch check out my Recent Abstracts set.

reflected trees
reflected trees

For the last three years I’ve been attending the annual All Bach Concert at Saint Marks Cathedral in the Capital Hill neighborhood of Seattle.  They have a beautiful pipe organ and wonderful acoustics there and they do a series of organ recitals every year. The final concert of the series is always the All Bach concert which is as the name denotes a concert of works soley by Johann Sebastian Bach.  I really should start attending more of the concert series but making just the Bach concert has been quite rewarding. It appears that next year in celebration of Messiaen’s 100th anniversary that they will be doing two concerts devoted to his works which personally I love, so I’m going to try to make those. But for this year it was only the All Bach show I made and this year it was performance of the Goldberg variations.

This year the featured organist was Daniel Sullivan playing his own arrangement of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Normally at these recitals I get to hear a number of pieces from Bach’s vast oeuvre that I’m unfamiliar with. Anyway with even a passing interest in Bach, or for that matter classical music in general has heard the Goldberg variations.  A piece that I’ve loved since childhood I have actually been reengaged with it of late thanks to Richard Egarr’s fantastic historically informed harpshichord recording. Considering the ubiquity of this piece I really can’t imagine that anyone who reads this not being at least of passing familiarity of it. So I’m not going to go into much detail or background on the piece, the incredibly thorough Wikipedia page is recommended for those who want more information in that regard.

The concert began at 7:30pm so as usual I was hard pressed to leave work at a normal hour and still make it there. Shockingly I made it across the notoriously choked with traffic 520 bridge and to the church in a mere 20 minutes from my home arrive 15 minutes early.  I definitely prefer to have a bit of time to relax and read the program before a concert so this was ideal circumstance. I’ve been making a point of picking up a CD from each of the All-Bach organists so I took this chance to acquire Sullivan’s recently released recording of the Goldbergs.

Soon enough Daniel Sullivan was introduced and the concert began.  When transcribing a piece from one instrument to the other there are a lot of choice to be made. Going from the harpsichord to the organ provides quite the panoply of choices when you consider its vast dynamic range, the huge number of stops and voices.  The temptation certainly exists to go to one extreme or the other: minimalist in trying to emulate the harpsichords sound and range, or in the opposite direction fully utilizing that range and all those stops.  I’m happy to report that Sullivan took the wise middle ground. He stuck more or less within the range of the piece only using the immense power of the organs low end for emphases on some of the more dramatic variations. He kept to a set of stops that seemed almost thin for the organ, yet much richer then the harpsichord. At times he’d pull out some stops that I’d certainly not heard before but always in a very tasteful way. In general he’d do this to emphasize the kaleidoscopic nature of the counterpoint on some of the variations. At times these almost clashed which provides something akin to the frisson of a touch of dissonance in an otherwise harmonically straight piece.  All in all the choice of sounds and dynamics was restrained, yet interesting always adding to the piece and never descending into showy gimmickry.

While I don’t think that organ transcriptions of this piece will replace the harpsichord for me I have to say I greatly enjoyed this. The resonance of the church and all the variety and range of the organ are why I love to go to these performances. The maze like qualities of Bach compositions is wholly engaging and a piece like the Goldbergs pushes that to the limits.  Another great All-Bach recital which merely strengthens my resolve to continue my tradition of attendance.

Stephen Drury performs Feldman and Rzewski

April 17th 2008 at the Chapel Performance Space
Seattle WA  USA

As I’ve mentioned previously this has really been a good year for 20th Century Composition in the Pacific Northwest. The string of great performances continued on with a rare visit of Stephan Drury to Seattle thanks to the Washington Composers Forums Transport Series. What with the Feldman Marathon and Frederic Rzewski’s recent performance, his selection of works from those composers seemed almost a continuation of those events. The concert had been listed on the Chapel’s blog for a while but with just the Rzewski piece listed. As this is such a great piece I had already planned to attend and when with a late update to the listing the Feldman piece was added it was just gravy.  Alas at the same time they also changed the concert start time to 7:30 which means I’d have to leave work early to make it. Compounding this situation was an incredibly rare mid-April snowstorm. Luckily things are a bit slack for me at work this week and I was able to leave early enough that I made it to the show a few minutes before start time. What with the foul weather they ended up starting around 7:45 so it wasn’t quite as tight as I feared.

I: Palais de Mari (c. Morton Felman)
I’m quite familiar with this piece having heard several recordings of it and having seen Ivan Sokolov perform it earlier this year as part of the Seattle Chamber Player’s Feldman Marathon so this would be an interesting comparison. Drury gave us a brief introduction to the piece mainly mentioning that this was Feldman’s final solo piano piece and that like the bulk of his works was instructed to be played softly. He also mentioned that one of Feldman’s primary concerns in his late works was patterns often constructed from repetitions of short segments inspired somewhat by oriental rugs. This is something that is definitely present in Palais de Mari, which prominently features short little arpeggios and broken chords that seem to slowly iterate though a self similar pattern.  Every so often in the piece there is a discordant chord in the lower register which hangs in the air until it mostly fades away. This always makes me think of how in an oriental rug there is always a ldeliberate flaw so as not to be an affront to Allah.

Drury’s performance was very well paced taking around twenty-five minutes to transverse the piece and his touch was light but sure.  I thought that one of those aforementioned chords was out of place at one point toward the end but it is hard to say, as they are irregularly spaced and I wouldn’t claim to know the piece that well.  As promised the dynamics were uniformly soft, though those discordant moments provided a nice contrast.  The excellent acoustics of the chapel allowed even the faintist of sounds to be heard with a crystalline clarity. Ambient sounds would leak in from time to time, though always at an even softer volume, a dopplering siren at one point being particularly nice.  In comparing the two recent performances I’ve witnessed I would say I found Drury’s superior to Sokolovs. Sokolov I thought rushed through the piece a bit, which isn’t all that surprising as it was the last piece of a nearly four hour concert that prominently featured his playing.  While I think that Drury’s performance is excellent I would say that I still prefer my recording of John Tilbury playing it.

Interval SeriesGhost Light Trio (c. Matt Sargent, film by Mike Gibisser)
Apparently part of each of Washington Composers Forum’s Transport series is a short film made to the music of a local composer. This film is shown at the end of intermission before the second half of the concert.  The film we saw tonight was Ghost Light Trio which overall I wasn’t that impressed by.  There seemed to be odd technical difficulties, which as it was just a DVD playing through a projector seemed a bit odd – it could be they were part of the piece, which if so was wholly uninteresting.  The music was made up of three sounds, each heavily processed at times. These sounds were recordings of water, traffic and bells.  The film was two images with dividing line as if there was two projectors. The film began with the sound of surf and corresponding imagery of blurry ocean. The chimes came in, often overlayed and at times quite dense. The imagery was blurred windows, a mostly empty room and water. The music was uniformly ambient with the bells being the most dramatic aspect. It wasn’t very interesting music and the filmmaker seemed to have responded likewise. There was two overwhelmingly loud blasts of sound that came across as a technical error but again its hard to see how that could happen. Additionally there was a bit where it looked like the video signal went down which is certainly possible but as it was just a DVD again seems unlikely. Especially as one of these times half of the video went to a “no input” screen but considering that there wasn’t two inputs seems like it was staged. If so this was visually and conceptually uninteresting and didn’t redeem the overall tepid affair.

II: The People United Will Never Be Defeated! (c. Frederic Rzewski)
Shortly after the film, Drury again took the stage and again began with some explanatory remarks. This piece, which is thirty-six variations on the Chilean song ¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido! by Sergio Ortega and Quilapayún, takes nearly an hour to perform. So Drury explained he wanted to give us a roadmap as it were to the piece.  The organization of the piece is nicely laid out in its Wikipedia page but he explained several features to the structure of the variations that I wasn’t aware of.  The piece is 36 variations which are organized in sets of 6. Each set of 6 is 5 unique variations with the 6th being constructed of the previous 5. This principle continues one level high in that the 6th set of variations is made up of the corresponding sets of the unique variations. That is to say that variation 31 would be made up of variation 1, 7, 13, 20 and 27. Variation 32 would be made up of variation 2, 8, 14, 21 and 28 and so on through variation 35. Variation 36, following the structure, then is made up of the previous 5 which being constructed from the preceding 30 means that it is a microcosm, a reflection of the entire piece.

The People United Will Never Be Defeated! is a rousing piece based on a catchy theme that one can completely understand being used as a revolutionary anthem. As I walked out from the show I overheard at least three different individuals independently humming the theme.  The variations, as variations do, present this theme in myriad ways, but in classic 20th Century style it deconstructs it further and further to the point that some variations would only be recognizable as derived from it via analysis of the notes themselves. Yet it always maintains the propulsive energy of the piece even in the softer, slower sections.  Drury performed the piece from memory which I found quite impressive. Variations do make aspects of memorization easier, but at the same time their self-similarity can make it easy to get lost. Especially at that great a number of variations over such a length of time.  Having seen Rzewski perform just a couple of months ago I can say that Drury captured his energy and the strength of his attacks quite well. The piece while having a fairly romantic feel to it, does incorporate a variety of extended techniques, including whistling along with his playing and one point slamming the lid down over the keys.  Another part I liked quite a bit was a sequence of vigorous one finger oscillationg playing way up in the upper register. This was done at great force with his hands as fists with just the pointer finger extended hammering at the keys. This created layers of overtones and reverberations that reminded me of nothing so much as the techniques I’d seen used in the Lachenmann performance a couple of weeks back.  In fact the very concept of using a popular melody and exploring, exploiting and deconstructing it in this way was a connection between these two, one that I have to assume Lachenmann is doing after Rzewski.

It was a bravura performance as powerful and as well executed as the recordings I’ve heard of this piece. After pounding out the thirty-six variations Drury delivered on the optional improvisation with a short bit of reference to the them and them of course the rousing reprise. At the conclusion he lept away from the piano and received a well deserved standing ovation at the conclusion.

Eye Music
Friday April 4th, 2008 | 8:00 PM
$5 – $15 sliding scale
Chapel Performance Space at Good Shepherd Center
50th & Sunnyside, in Wallingford

So the group that I did that performance of Treatise w/ Keith Rowe is doing a performance this Friday of some of the other Graphic Scores we’ve been working on. Info about the group can be found here and info on the venue can be found here. We’re going to be playing the following pieces, in various combinations of the ensemble:

Mike Shannon Matrix
Toshi Ichiyanagi
Cornelius Cardew
Treatise (pages 72,73 and 76)
Bob Cobbing
Chamber Music
Robin Mortimore
Very Circular Pieces
Clifford Burke
Upside Down & Backwards
Michael Parsons
Piece for 1 or More Guitars
David Toop
Lizard Music